PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA | Last Sunday after finishing the Arnold Palmer Invitational before the leaders had teed off, Brooks Koepka – who had gone 81-71 on the windblown weekend – was asked by a PGA Tour official if he had a moment to talk with a few reporters.
When Koepka said yes, the official asked him to step up on a podium and behind a microphone.
“Haven’t done this in a while,” Koepka said with a half a smile, half a smirk on his face.
Was the difference in Saturday and Sunday as big as the 10-shot swing suggested?
“Same old #*$#,” said Koepka, who surrendered his 47-week grip on the No. 1 spot in the world ranking to Rory McIlroy last month.
Not long afterward, Koepka was on a plane to Las Vegas where he spent part of Monday with teacher Butch Harmon, having requested an audience with the game’s most respected teacher. Koepka said he did it with the blessing of his own coach, Claude Harmon III, Butch’s son, as well as short-game guru Pete Cowen.
Two months into 2020, Koepka flew west seeking clarity and he believes he’s found it.
“It’s one of those things I felt like I just had so much going on in my head, so many swing thoughts and needed to clear the slate,” Koepka said on the eve of the Players Championship.
It is easy to point to Koepka’s extended recovery from a left knee injury as the cause of the substantial downturn in his results, but he believes it’s more than that. Koepka isn’t discounting the fact he’s played just 22 rounds of golf since last August, but he insists the knee is not the issue.
He’s made three PGA Tour starts this year and he’s finished T43, missed the cut and finished T47. Koepka can feel something off in his swing. That’s why he called Harmon, who’s watched him play for years without being his main coach.
“It’s one of those things where I just needed a different set of eyes, maybe something might click, because I was failing,” Koepka said.
“Claude was telling me the same things he’s said for five years, the three keys that we have just worked on, and for some reason I just couldn’t do it. That’s on me.
“It’s not on Claude, it’s not Claude’s fault, it’s not Pete’s fault, it’s not anybody’s fault except my own, and the fact that I couldn’t do it, I just needed a fresh set of eyes just to look at it and see if he saw anything out of the ordinary. And the beauty of it is Butch has seen it so many times. So it was good for me to go out there.”
It didn’t take long.
Four swings, Koepka said, and Harmon had given him a path forward. Koepka had planned to spend all of Tuesday with Harmon in Las Vegas. No need. Harmon told him to turn the plane around and get back to Florida and do his work there.
It’s not a swing change. It’s getting back to what Koepka has done so well for so long.
“It’s pretty fundamental stuff, I just wasn’t doing it, to put it very bluntly. You fall into bad habits, yes, and sometimes you just got to work your way out of them.” – Brooks Koepka
It’s the nature of the game. Rhythm and feel comes and goes, even for someone as dominant as Koepka has been. He knew what he was trying to do but it wasn’t working.
“It’s pretty fundamental stuff, I just wasn’t doing it, to put it very bluntly,” Koepka said. “You fall into bad habits, yes, and sometimes you just got to work your way out of them.”
After the Las Vegas session with Harmon, Koepka and his tight team spent more than an hour Tuesday taking stock of where they are and where they’re going. Concentration, Koepka admitted, has been a problem, citing a specific tee shot he hit into the water at the Honda Classic two weeks ago as an example of something he wouldn’t do in a major championship.
Despite the disappointing results, Koepka is not in makeover mode. He’s not chasing something different. He’s working his way back to what he had.
“What’s made me successful is I don’t listen to anybody. I listen to my coach, my team, everybody inside. I’ll do what they ask, I’ll do what’s needed and I don’t tinker,” Koepka said.
“I don’t tinker with clubs, I don’t make changes on anything and then all of a sudden I kind of veered off the path of all right, well, let’s try this, I think this is going to make me better, when it got me to world No. 1, it got me four majors, seven wins out here. Why am I changing that?
“I think I’ve always laughed because you see guys do it before you. They make changes right when they get to the top to improve and the intent behind it is really good, but at the same time a lot of these things are what makes me successful, what makes me tick. And that’s what I’m trying to go back to right now is make it very fundamental, very simple and keep the main thing the main thing.”
Brooks Koepka (left) had the blessing of his regular coach, Claude Harmon III (right), to make a trip west to see Butch Harmon. Photo: Andrew Redington, Getty Images
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